Great Time at @AllAleQueen #Craftbeer Carnival #CltBeer #NCBeer #beerfest

March 24, 2014

I consider myself blessed for the life I have. Not only am I one of the resident beer geeks at The Market in Maryville but I also get to go work beer festivals through SuperFly Fabulous Events. You might haven’t  heard of this company, but you know of their work. Kingsport Oktoberfest, Thirsty Orange, All Ale To The Queen, Beer City Bus Tours and Brewer’s Summit. The team that put on these events are great people and I’m proud to be their friend. At these festivals I’ve done everything from represent a brewery (Woodruff), to pouring my homebrew, promoting the events through social media, to the most recent, running the mobile infusers. The best part about doing all this is having another chance to hang out before, during and after the events.

This weekend brought me to Charlotte, NC for the All Ale to the Queen Craft Beer Carnival. I’ve been planning on this event for months now, and I almost didn’t make it. My life has changed so much in a short amount of time. Being unemployed for awhile, moving to Maryville and working a low paying (but fulfilling) job has had it challenges. The finances starting looking grim for a 4 hour drive. When I estimated the gas money needed to go, it didn’t look like I could pull it off. Luckily a few friends saw my post on my personal social media and came to my rescue by buying some rare beers I’ve been cellaring. I was hoping to rope one or 2 of my remaining friends to go with me, but despite some last minute bribery, It ended up being a solo trip.

So I loaded up the car and left Friday Morning for Charlotte. The drive was uneventful. My GPS said it would take 4 and 1/2 hours but I made it to the venue in 4 with no problems. I checked in and was handed one of the festivals jockey boxes and asked if I could get it re-lined. Since I was also now in possession of the company’s brand new top of the line randall and needed to get parts, it wasn’t a problem. I put everything in my car and googled the nearest homebrew supply store. I found my way to Beer and Wine Hobbies International. The staff there was great and helped me reline the box and get all the parts I needed to set up the Randall. As I sat there with them talking about beer the clock was ticking. I had to still find my way to where the beer dinner was starting at 6. I had time for one quick brewery stop. I asked where I should go and Triple C Brewing was the answer given. Luckily it wasn’t too far away. I paid for the parts (company credit card, woot!) and headed there. As I drove up, I noticed how packed the place was. This was definitely a popular brewery, with lots of people and dogs enjoying the great weather. It happened to be one of the last days of Charlotte Beer Week and Triple C released a milk stout brewed with Vanilla Beans and Kahlua soaked oak chips that they called “The Dude Imbibes“. I got a full pour of that and a flight of four other beers as well. I was very impressed with the quality of the brews I tried. As I sat there drinking my beers, I had a conversation with a local about the Charlotte Craft Beer Scene. I could have stayed the rest of my trip at Triple C, but it was time to head to the beer dinner. I made sure to buy myself a wax capped big bottle of their Smoked Imperial Amber as a souvenir. Hopefully I won’t have to sell this one off to fund a future beer trip.

I arrived at Harry’s Grille and Tavern for the beer dinner. As I walked in and looked around the room, I recognized half the people there. I struck up a conversation with Aaron who introduced me to April Smith. She was running the social media for this festival. We grabbed one of the few remaining tables. My friend and all around good guy, Adam Reinke had texted me to say he was coming to the dinner. I saved him a couple of seats. He arrived with the infamous Mark with him. The course and beers started coming, and each one was incredible. Check out the All Ale To The Queen Twitter post about each course. Here’s one, two, three, four and five.

As the dinner came to an end, many were wondering what was next on the agenda? The word spread quickly through the brewers and other in town that we would take over the lawn in front of the hotel. There were already lawn chairs there. Somehow we started calling this “the grassy knoll”. I don’t know who came up with it, but that’s what we all referred to it as the rest of the weekend. Once back to the hotel we started to hang out there. Beers were flowing and a great time was had. I had a little (a lot) too much to drink. Like, bad behavior drunk ( I apologize to the person most of this was directed towards, but in my defense I HATE being stalked). Luckily I caught myself and stopped. I went to my room to sleep it off.

I woke up the next morning hung over and slightly hating myself. I felt a deep seated need for punishment. What else could I do but run it out? I got dressed in my running clothes, set my Nike app for a 5k and hit downtown Charlotte. The 1st mile hurt. My head was pounding, my mouth was dry and my liver hurt like hell. As I made my half way point, I started feeling better. By the end of my run I felt great. My app chimed in to tell me the 5k was over. To my astonishment I had beat my previous record by 3 and a half minutes!

Back at the hotel I drank coffee, showered and then headed out to the festival site. There was work to do. I set up my merchandise table, pieced together the randall and lent a hand where needed. When the doors opened, I knew I would need a volunteer and they hooked me up. I was introduced to Joy who was just that. I’ve done many fest and had many volunteers and she was the best so far. She is a home brewer and eager to learn all she could about beer. Together we were able to stay on schedule and came up with a great system for moving the randall around, cleaning it and setting it up. Her shift technically ended at 3:30 but she stayed, helping me all the way until the 8 pm ending time. This went above and beyond what was expected of her. Thanks homegirl!

There was so much going on at this festival and I was so busy I only caught about a fraction. When I was able to lift my head from what I was doing, the view was spectacular. This was mainly due to the incredibly hot aerial acrobats at the middle of the room and the always eye pleasing Charlotte Beer Girls.  There were also freak show acts that I missed but friends told me about later. Like a guy who ate a light bulb. My questions is, how’d he figure out that was something he was good at? What inspired him to eat the first one? I also missed the homebrewer contest and didn’t get to try everyone’s beer. Congrats to the winners though, maybe one day I’ll brew again and will enter another competition. For now, I’m honestly happy to NOT be brewing.

The one thing I was able to focus on, like I said, was the randalizing of beer. Awhile back I was talking to Aaron and told him we needed better randalls and system for mobile infusing. He asked my recommendation and I told him to buy the top of the line system from Dogfish head. He did so and it was worth every penny! We broke this new system in at Catawba’s booth with the brewery’s founder, Billy, as Seen in the video below:

The next infusion we did was at Abita’s booth with their Strawberry Lager going through French Broad Cocao nibs and shells and fresh strawberries. This was a hit. It was so good that the rep had to fill a growler to bring back to the brewers in New Orleans. So if you see Abita come out with a chocolate strawberry beer in the future, just know where it originated. People where clamoring for this beer and the line grew really long once the word spread. We were only scheduled to be at their booth for an hour, but if we would have taken it away when that early, I’m pretty sure we would have caused a riot. I was fine with staying there, especially since the Goose Island booth was right new to me and the reps kept sneaking me sips of Bourbon County Stout and Backyard Rye on the down low (thanks ladies!).

We were finally able to unhook the randall and head over to Rj Rockers where we ran the always popular Son of A Peach through, you guessed it, peaches. Since we didn’t have enough peaches due to my clumsily spilling half of them, we added some plums as well. It was a great combination. My volunteer, Joy had pointed out that there was a small group of girls following the infuser around. Sure enough they were first in line for the Rj Rockers. As I sat there talking with them, they asked to take pictures. Since my main weakness is pretty girls, I couldn’t resist. Of course, I couldn’t resist inviting them to the after party as well, but no such luck.

My Randall groupies.

Me and my Randall groupies.

The last infusion of the day was with Starr Hill. I tried to infuse their Cryptical Imperial Stout with Cocao Nibs and Shredded coconut. We ran into our first clogging issues of the day and were only able to get a few pours out of it. This was near the end of the fest, so I decided it would be alright to break it down, give it a good cleaning and call it a day.

The festival came to an end and I made sure to pack up and secure the randal and jockey box. As the attendees left it was back to being the festival people. Grassy Knoll takeover was the post festival party plans. By this time I was completely sober. I always stop drinking about and hour or 2 before a festival like this is over so I can drive. As I loaded up my car I noticed my buddy Jim Cope carring a big plastic bag and looking faded. My friend Trevor and his girlfriend walked over and as we talked and I mentioned the party, they asked if they could ride with me. We piled into my car and were talking and laughing our asses off on the way to the hotel.

Trevor Sharp gears up for the Jim Cope homeless impersonation challenge. We all were laughing so hard it hurt.

Trevor Sharp gears up for the Jim Cope homeless impersonation challenge. We all were laughing so hard it hurt.

When we arrived, the party was already in effect. Adam Reinke had ordered pizzas, beer was flowing and Urban Orchard brought out a keg of cider to share. I ran back to the room to grab one of my growlers and when I came back, the group was little more subdued. Where’s the keg? Well it seems like we were all having such a great time that the police came and told the group that we couldn’t be so obvious and have kegs out. The lawn was actually part of Johnson and Wales University. I found this hilarious because the same weekend a bunch of rowdy craft beer drinking drunks took over the hotel, the other people staying there were parents and potential students checking out the college. I could see the shocked look on the face of families are they walked passed us. I would not be a bit surprised if more then a few parents told their kids that there was no way they’d allow them to attend there after seeing us.

So instead of kegs, we just kept taking turns filling up growlers with Urban Orchard Cider and Studio Brew’s Mosaic Sunset from the kegs stashed in the cars a few feet away. I want to give a big shout out to my new friend, Jeff Anderson from Urban Orchard. It was great partying with you brother, and I look forward to hanging out again in a few weeks at TO.

Well I knew I had a 4 hour drive and a shift at the Beer Den the next day, so I had to call it a night. It pained me to be responsible and walk away from a great party with people I love and admire. Good thing I get to do it all over again soon. I hope everyone enjoys the pictures and if we met, I’d love to hear from you.

Charlotte you were great. I’ll be back in November for Attack of The Big Beers, so you have 8 months to prepare for my arrival. I’ll be counting the days my friends.

Cheers!

-Jason aka Ratchet


The Start Of A New Year Is A Great Time to Change Things Up.

February 5, 2014

After a month long hiatus, I’m back. I wanted to begin the new year off by changing, challenging and improving myself. So I began by breaking off a relationship that I found myself not wanting to be in anymore. Then I made myself go a full month without looking at or posting on social media. Because that just wasn’t enough, I made myself go a month without drinking any alcohol. To this end, I took January “off” to get my head straight and focus on my goals for 2014. I hardly went out, didn’t really hang with my friends and made diet and lifestyle changes. In this process of staying offline and not drinking, I learned a lot about myself. I realized that I don’t need to constantly check twitter, facebook and untappd to see what everyone is up to. I don’t need to post my every thought or every little detail of my existence. Taking time away also helped me realize who my true friends were as opposed to those in name only.
The not drinking part was little harder, especially the first couple of weeks. I have amassed a pretty decent collection of craft beer and a nicely stocked liquor cabinet. Every time I open the fridge, I see bottles. During this month, when I did go out, it was mostly to the Downtown Grill and Brewery. I’d go to get out of the house, eat something, use the internet and talk with my bartender buddies. They are use to seeing me coming, taking my mug down and filling it for me before I even get to the bar. This happened several times during January. I would thank them, explain what I was doing and drink water instead. I’ve also been working at The Market in Maryville’s Beer Den, surrounded by beer. I could have poured myself a pint at anytime. People were constantly bringing in bottles to share, but I stuck to my plan. That’s why when I did have my first beer in a month, Woodruff’s IPA at the Brewery during the Super Bowl, it meant so much. Before this self-challenge, I was drinking everyday. Some days I’d just have a beer at the end of the day. More often than not, it was several beers. It had just become part of my routine. I was also spending too much money on alcohol. Last year when I had a job that paid decently, I spent a majority of my disposable income on ordering rare craft beer online. I was always trying to keep up on the latest releases, arrange trades, and make trips to brewery only releases. Most of the people I had surrounded myself with were the same way. When I took the month of January to not drink, it started out without a purpose, just one of those “let’s see if I can do it” things. By the end of the month I had many realizations. In retrospect, the money I spent last year chasing down rare beers could have been put to use on things that would have better improved my quality of life and my health. I don’t write this to make myself out to be some self-righteous teetotaler who has “seen the light”, or to make any of my friends question their lifestyle choices. Honestly, I would have been perfectly happy carrying on like I was, had I not took on this challenge. So what does this mean now? Am I NOT going to bottle releases, NOT buy rare beer online or do trades anymore? Of course I will be. I LIKE those things. However, in 2014 I’m not going to do it as much. I don’t want to spend the energy worrying that I’m missing out on same rare once in a lifetime beer, or blow most of a paycheck ordering online when there is so much more to the world. I don’t feel the need to drink everyday, and when I do, I want to respect it more. I want it to be special.

During my month long sabbatical, friends would reach out to check on me. Apparently there were rumors going around that I was depressed and that’s why I was self-isolating. Nothing could be further from the truth. The whole time I was happy and in a really good place. Other than work, I pretty much had time to read, meditate and yes, I even solo brewed a batch of Imperial Stout on the down low.

During my alone time, I reevaluated my goals of opening a nano-brewery. This unrealistic dream of mine took up a lot of my time and energy. I found myself thinking about it to the point where it became stressful for me. In the last 2 years I’ve made no measurable progress towards this goal. Honestly, I’m not in a financial position to accomplish this. I am very independent and don’t like the idea of taking on investors who would possibly have power over my dreams. By giving up this idea, it frees me to pursue other things, and is a huge burden lifted from me. For now, I’m quite happy brewing an occasional batch of beer at home.

The other change I made is my name. My nickname was Ratchet since sometime around 1993. This is way before it was slang for anything else. I started to hate how I’ve been known for the last 21 years had morphed into a term of derision in society and popular culture. It became enough for me to abandon my long term nickname to go back to using my real name. I thought since I’m not trying to go pro anymore, I would give up the name “Ratchet Brews” for this blog and change it to Jason Knows Beer, which I like to think I do. For me this fits more into what my website is about. Because of the name change, you might notice some glitches in older post on this blog. Some pictures might be missing and such. To me, it’s not really that big a deal. I might fix it, I might not. For now, going forward is more important to me then what happened in the past.

So is there going to be content change on my blog in 2014? Not really. I’ll still write the really inane, irreverent post that I always have. You can expect more stories about my traveling adventures. Also the same live updates from beer festivals, brew days, etc. I do want to branch out more into beer education and to that end, I plan on studying and going for Cicerone certification. I want to write some articles on specific beer styles such as origins, recipes, and the like. I’ll continue to write because it’s become too much of an outlet for me to give it up. I’ll probably throw in some non-beer tidbits every once in awhile because I do plan on being more active in running, hiking, urban exploring and eating right. At the same time I don’t plan on being as active in the Knoxville “Beer Scene”.

With all that said, I do have some travel plans in the following weeks and months. This Saturday is the Tennessee Winter Beer Festival In Townsend from 3 to 9 pm. This is an ultra small event at the The Laurel Valley Country Club. Some of the breweries present this year will be Turtle Anarchy, Saw Works, Studio Brew, Calf Killer and Smoky Mountain. If you haven’t got tickets yet, you’re pretty much screwed since it’s sold out. I’ll be there and might live post similar to last year.

Saturday February 15th I’m driving up to Lexington to attend Craft Writing: Beer, The Digital, and Craft Culture at the University of KY. This is a one day symposium at the University of Kentucky showcasing writing in craft beer. Speaking will be such well know beer writers as Stan HieronymusRoger Baylor, Mitch Steele, and Jeremy Cowan. The keynote address is by Garrett Oliver. I am hoping to learn from the best. If anyone is interested in pitching in for gas, you are welcome to ride up and back with me. I just plan on going for the day and driving home after.

Saturday March 22nd is All Ale to the Queen in Charlotte, NC. This is the ending event of Charlotte Beer Week. I’ll be there for the weekend running the festival Organizer’ s brand new Dogfish Head Randall. I have 2 nights booked at a hotel, so if anyone wants to go, hit me up.

April 11th and 12th is The Thirsty Orange Beer Extravaganza in Johnson City. It starts off with a small beer dinner on Friday Night at The Battery Restaurant.  The new site of this year’s event is at ETSU’s Millenium Center. There will be better (& free) parking, more room, more events and way, way more beer. I will be there as well, and may or may not set up a booth serving my homebrew. I’ll know closer to time.

Well, thanks for reading. I’ll post again soon. Hope everyone has a great 2014. I know mine has been amazing so far.

Cheers,

Jason


The Most Amazing Meal I’ve Ever Had. The @OskarBlues Beer Dinner at @TheTomatoHead

December 11, 2013

Peanut butter and jelly.
Salt and pepper.
Bagels and cream cheese.
Spongebob and Patrick.
BEER AND FOOD.

Somethings just naturally pair well with others. Of the above list, the last one is of course, my favorite. I had the good fortune to attend The Tomato Head’s first craft beer dinner last night. Indulging in the best meal I’ve ever eaten paired with beers from one of my favorite craft beer brands, I had the most incredible dreams all night long. I woke up this morning feeling refreshed and inspired to write about it.

For anyone living in our great city of Knoxville, it would be inconceivable to me if they didn’t know about the Tomato Head. Originally opening it’s doors as The Flying Tomato in 1990, it’s been an anchor tenant of Market Square through all it’s changes and a cornerstone of the Knoxville Restaurant scene. When I first moved here in the late 90’s, it was the one place I knew I could get great pizzas and vegetarian fare. It was the place where I first fell in love with the concept of brunch. I don’t hide the fact that I am an unabashed fan. They opened their Gallery Shopping Center location in Bearden, late 2012. This is where the beer dinner took place.

The Tomato Head's Gallery Shopping Center location. On Kingston Pike, in Bearden.

The Tomato Head’s Gallery Shopping Center location. On Kingston Pike, in Bearden.

A more recent arrival to Knoxville is the introduction of Oskar Blues Brewery’s line of tasty craft beers. One of the first craft breweries to see the value in canning it’s beer, they started distributing to Knoxville just this year. This is mainly due to their recent Brevard, NC expansion. Previously if you wanted to track down some O.B. you either had to travel or have someone ship it to you. All of their beers are very highly rated and incredibly good. I remember hearing about their Ten Fidy Imperial Stout long before I tried it. When I finally tracked it down years ago, I was blown away. It was one of those rare times where the beer actually lived up to they hype associated with it. A month or 2 ago the first cans of Brevard brewed Ten Fidy finally hit the local shelves. There was much rejoicing in the Knoxville beer scene when this happened.

Menu for the beer dinner

Menu for the beer dinner

Brewing beer and cooking food have much in common. A good brewer, like a good chef, will know what flavors work together. Texture, mouth feel, presentation and most of all, taste makes a great meal and a great beer what they are. It’s both science as well as art. Both the brewers at Oskar Blues and the chefs at Tomato Head are artisans. For this beer dinner, Mahasti and Sam came up with an amazing meal to pair with amazing beers. First up was potato pancakes topped with house pickled beets from Mountain Meadow Farm, sour cream, and sauerkraut. This was paired with Oskar BluesMama’s Little Yella Pils. This was a great combination where the flavors of the root vegetables, the tanginess of the sauerkraut and the creaminess of the sour cream complimented the light, crisp and thirst quenching qualities of the pilsner. I could have ate this all night, but the meal had only just begun.

Potato pancake, house pickled beets, Sauerkraut and sour cream paired with Mama's Little Yella Pils.

Potato pancake, house pickled beets, Sauerkraut and sour cream paired with Mama’s Little Yella Pils.

The main course consisted of F Nolan and Sons Victuallers Redding English Bangers served on a Flour Head Bakery Stout bun with roasted sweet peppers and onions, and a sour cherry mustard made with Deviant Dales’s IPA. This was accompanied by a Rye Berry Winter Green Salad. The beer pairing for this course was Dale’s Pale Ale and Old Chub Scotch Ale. When I first read the menu, I was apprehensive. The reason being is that I primarily eat a vegetarian diet. I’m not very strict about it, and do eat meat on occasion. However it’s extremely rare that I eat red meat. Please excuse my ignorance, but I had no idea what a banger was. I was imagining some red beef bits or something. (Hey I’m a beer geek, not a foodie, but I’m learning). Imagine my delight when they brought out the plates and I learned that a banger was an all natural pork sausage link. YUM! I took a bite of the bun filed with cut up pieces of banger, sweet bell peppers and the best mustard ever. It was beyond words. As I chewed I think my eyes rolled into the back of my head and I might have moaned or something, because when I came to, I noticed people at the table looking at me funny. I’m sorry but I couldn’t help it. This was the best food I have had since my last meal at the Tomato Head. The whole plate was incredible. I remember being in a state of bliss and trying my best to keep from tearing up with joy. I found that the hoppiness of Dale’s Pale Ale really complimented the bitterness of the winter green salad. For me, the part of the meal that really stood out was the sour cherry mustard. Everyone at our table agreed, if this was available to purchase in jars, it would be one of those condiments that you put on everything. They way it tasted combined with sips of Old Chub was phenomenal. If the Tomato Head makes this a regular dish, I will soon be homeless having spent all my money to eat there everyday.

Heaven on a plate

Heaven on a plate

At this point I felt the early stages of the itis. I was full and satisfied. However, we weren’t done yet. It was time for dessert. They brought out bread pudding made with Flour Head Bakery Parker House rolls, Schwab Farm roasted apples topped with a chocolate sauce made with Ten Fidy and home made whipped cream. Naturally the beer pairing for this was Ten Fidy, Oskar Blues’ incredible Russian Imperial Stout. For me the Ten Fidy was dessert enough, but with the chocolate covered apples and the bread pudding it was over the top goodness. I fought with myself to consume every last bit, no matter how full I was.

Dessert!

Dessert!

As I finished my meal, I sat and talked with the staff of the Tomato Head, and the others at our table. We all agreed that this meal was a huge success. Like I mentioned, this was The Tomato Head’s first craft beer dinner, and I am sure they will have many more in the future. Like all great restaurants, they really appreciate craft beer and how to pair it with a meal. I’m really excited that the downtown location is being expanded. Once the construction is done, they will have a bar focusing on great wine and beer. The timeline for this is February, and I can’t wait! I look forward to frequenting the new bar, and claiming my spot as a regular.

I’d like to thank the wonderful staff at the Tomato Head for everything. As far as beer dinners go, this one was the best. I look forward to the next one, and the continued success of Knoxville’s best restaurant.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Reblogged from Confessions of a Nutty Brewnette: A Small Taste of Ratchet Brews

November 22, 2013

Big Shot out to @theNuttyBrewnette & @CraftBeerCritic!

Confessions of a Nutty Brewnette

He doesn’t ride with Nina, Keisha, or Molly.  He doesn’t wear chains around his neck while brewing nor does he produce “brews-a-make-her-dance.”  His name is Jason Carpenter, known to friends as “Ratchet” for the last 18 years, and no relation to Juicy J or 2 Chainz.  By day, he is the office manager for a small law firm in Knoxville, TN where they can help “Turn Your Ex into Some Checks!” and a home brewer in his spare time.
Ratchet Brews was founded sometime between 1995 and 1996 after Jason learned to brew along with some friends from a homebrew kit.  It wasn’t until 2009 that he decided to delve into it full force.  Since then, Ratchet has continued to dedicate his time to perfecting his work and developing his brand in order to meet his ultimate goal: to open his own nano-brewery.
“My basic brew day is usually 6-8 hours, but this doesn’t include all…

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Kingsport Oktoberfest this SATURDAY @KPTOktoberfest (my 100th post)

September 25, 2013

If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet to the Biggest Tricities festival of the year, then I guess you’re not going. If you are planning on it, and haven’t bought tickets, you need to get on it. Chances are they are going to sell out soon. This is probably my favorite festival of the Year. It takes over a 6 block area of downtown Kingsport and a majority of it is free. In fact, the only cost is to get into the bier garden.  I could go on and on about it, but everything that needs to be said has been said. Check out these links:

My Blog about 2012’s event.

My Blog about 2011’s event.

Knox Beer Snob’s write up about it.

Ashvegas.com article about it.

Times News Article.

News Channel 11 Story.

Out N’ About magazine article.

Facebook page.

@KPTOktoberfest twitter feed.

You get the point. I’ll be there along with Richard and Todd pouring our delicious homebrew. We are bringing Celiatrix Gluten-Free IPA, Comrade Soze Russian Imperial Stout, Ma Hefe Heffeweizen, Hop-BOOM! IPA, Blackberry Bomber, and Butternut Squash Ale. We are also bringing merchandise to sell, so pick up a shirt or something to help us pay for more beer making ingredients.

Also, if you want to go for the day and not spend the night, contact me. I know of at least one person going for the day that plans on driving back to Knoxville that night. Y’all could carpool and share gas. If you want to spend the night, you better hurry, most of the hotels are booked.

Well this is all for now. If I get a chance, I’ll write about last weekend’s bourboncation, if not I’ll be sure to tell you how Oktoberfest went. Hope to see you there and also don’t forget that the Brooklyn Brewery Tap Takeover is happening at Suttree’s tonight at 6. 17 taps with some super rare beers and brewmaster reserves that will probably never be available in this area again. If you see me there, buy me a beer? I’m broke as hell, but I can pay you back in homebrew.

Cheers,

Ratchet


A Vacation w/ Beer Side Trips? Just Don’t Call It A #Beercation.

September 12, 2013

Update, Feb 2014: I really struggled with if I should delete this post or not. It’s about a trip with my ex-girlfriend. It’s hard for me to look back and see how much fun we had together. I have edited a lot of my other post to remove references to her. I’m the one who decided to end things with her. We just weren’t compatible and have different things we want in life. Where ever or whoever she’s with now, I wish her nothing but the best. She deserves to be happy and so do I.

Last weekend Katie and I took a trip to Charleston, SC. She has been wanting to go to the beach for awhile, and I wanted to check out the beer scene there. I grew up in Florida, near the beach, I have fair skin and burn easily. Convincing me to willingly go to the beach is a pretty hard sell. I finally consented, knowing I’d at least get to check a few places I’ve read about in various beer magazines.

The last time I took a major trip with her, it was to Asheville for Beer Week. She was expecting a leisure filled vacation, but it turned in to more of a working trip with all the events I was covering for the blog. Because of this, on top of her recent diagnosis via an endoscopy that she has Celiac Disease and can’t drink much beer, she insisted that our Charleston trip not be a beer focused one. Right away she made it known that I was not to consider this a “Beercation”.  I learned quickly to not refer to it as so.

So Thursday afternoon we loaded up her Highlander and hit the road. Charleston is roughly a six hour drive from Knoxville. We arrived at our hotel around 8 pm. Once settled in, I was able to convince her to go check out The Charleston Beer Exchange a few blocks away from where we were staying. I picked up a pre-paid order for my friend Todd and bought myself some rarities. We stashed them back at the hotel and went on a mission to find a craft beer bar called the Craftsmen. We walked around looking for it and realized that it was closed for repairs. So we headed to the next place called Closed for Business. This was a nice little bar that I had read about in Draft Magazine. Really great selection with very knowledgeable bartenders.  I tried several beers while Katie had a mixed drink and some cider. At this point it was getting late and we called it a night.

The next morning we woke up, loaded the car and walked around Downtown Charleston. We had time to kill since check in time to the Condo on Isle of Palms wasn’t until 4. We walked through the Historic Market and generally check out the sights. Eventually we stumbled upon Southend Brewery. Ah ha! Drink time! I ordered a flight and got Katie a Mojito. We chose a table out on the patio and I settled into my beer. Huh… first beer, substandard, second beer, nothing special, third beer, meh… and so on through all 8 samples. I hate saying anything bad about breweries, but honestly this one’s beer weren’t good. If you ever go to Charleston, skip this place. When I spoke with locals later on during the trip, they all told me it was a tourist trap and that they were sorry I had to experience it.

Avoid this place

Avoid this place

We left downtown and drove to the really nice condo Katie booked for us. It over looked a private beach on Isle of Palms. We arrived, checked in, unpacked the car, and hit the beach to play in the waves. I’ll admit, I had a lot of fun. The beaches I grew up with were on the Gulf of Mexico, and the waves were tiny. At Isle of Palms they were about 4 feet. We played on the beach for quite a bit until we were tired and it it was time for the next part of our adventure. We drove over to North Charleston to check out Holy City Brewing Company.  I have had a few of Holy City’s beers at festivals in Asheville, and have always enjoyed them. We both bought flights and sat and enjoyed the atmosphere while sipping on our selections. I really like their beer and the way the brewery is set up. There was a food truck outside, pic-nic tables and corn hole boards. People and dogs were hanging out and socializing. We only stayed for about an hour, because there was so much we wanted to do. I bought a couple of bottles of Holy City’s Pluff Mud Porter to go. On the way back to the hotel, we made a run to the store for food and supplies. There was a Piggy Wiggly nearby, and I had heard that they had a great beer selection. We also planned on hitting a liquor store, but for some awful reason, they close at 7 pm in the area. However, the Piggly Wiggly did live up to the hype, beer wise. The selection was great and they sold growler fills as well. I had already bought a bunch of beer earlier, so I skipped purchasing anything but food.

Beer list at Holy City

Beer list at Holy City

We got back to the Condo, ate dinner and went for a walk on the beach. At this point it was night, and we were pretty exhausted from the day’s activities. We settled in to watch a movie and only made it half way through before determining that it was time to sleep. Saturday would be another big day.

View of the beach from the patio of our condo.

View of the beach from the patio of our condo.

Saturday we got up, ate breakfast, had coffee and rushed out to swim. I had layered up with plenty of sunblock. After playing in the waves for a bit, Katie wanted to soak up some rays. I made a last minute decision to go for a jog. I ran barefoot on the beach for about a mile or so, the alternated walking & running. I decided to go as far as I could see, where the beach curved out of sight. This wasn’t my brightest idea. It took forever and by the time I got there, I was too tired to run back. I must have been a good 4 miles from our condo. I started the walk back. I was really sore, tired and dehydrated. I got sun burnt pretty bad as well. Where I returned 2 hours later to the condo, I found a really worried Katie. She was glad I was alright since I hadn’t told her that I was going anywhere. I drank a lot of water, took a shower and layered on more sunblock. It was time for the next adventure, checking out Westbrook Brewing Company.

Westbrook's tasting room as you walk through the front door.

Westbrook’s tasting room.

Westbrook is well known for making tasty beer. It wasn’t too far of a drive, being in the neighboring suburb of Mount Pleasant. We happened to arrive on a day where they released the 4th edition of their Bearded Farmer Saison series called Taylor. They also re-released their super balanced and incredibly tasty Citrus Ninja Exchange IPA as well. At the bar we ordered 2 flights and found a place to sit. As we enjoyed our beer, they announced that there was a tour taking place soon. Katie gave me that look. The one that said “You are not here on beercation, you are here to hang out with me.” I agreed and told her I just wanted to go back and snap a few pictures, not necessarily do the whole tour. She was fine with that, and we left our perch and did just that as seen in the shots below. (click on any picture for slideshow)

After finishing our beer, taking some more pictures and purchasing bottles of Citrus Ninja and Taylor, we headed back to the condo. Everywhere we went, we relied on our iPhone maps and Siri to tell us directions. On the way back to the beach, Katie told me to turn off Siri. She insisted that she knew how to get there. I didn’t think the drive look familiar, but I trusted her. The next thing I know, we are pulling in to House of Brews. She surprised me! I was super happy to go check it out. House of Brews is just that. A house stocked full of beer. They had a small bar, and outside patio and 3 rooms with shelves. We sat at the bar and ordered a half pour and spoke with the owner. He told us about the local craft beer scene and his store. I walked around the  dimly light storage rooms (light kills beer) and found some amazing selections. Three of the bottles I grabbed also happened to be the last on the shelf! I got a rare Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel aged in Cognac barrels that I have been seeking for awhile. This is definitely special occasion beer. Well we only stayed long enough to have a drink and make some purchases. I dropped Katie back off at the Condo so she could get some more beach time while I hit up the nearest liquor store. We decided that we wanted fruity beach drinks, and settled on pina coladas.

When I got back, it was time to mix up some drinks. Luckily our condo came stocked with a blender. As she mixed up the first batch, I went down and started the grill for a little ocean side cook-out. It was dark by the time we had ate and polished off a few drinks. Feeling good, it was time for a little night time walk on the beach and a swim. We made sure to walk way far away from any other people before we jumped in the ocean. We got knocked around by the waves and and had a good ol’ time. However, at this point the cups we had brought with us were empty, so it was time to dry off and hit a little roof top bar a few doors down from the condo. We quickly rinsed off the salt water, put on dry clothes and walked over. The place was called Coconut Joe’s. Total little touristy place with the kind of crowd you’d expect. We went to the top and consumed even more fruity tropical drinks while enjoying the sights, sounds and breeze from the ocean. After awhile we noticed the crowd had disappeared and that the staff was starting to clean. We asked someone what time they closed. Apparently there is a noise ordinance because of the surrounding condos. So we paid for our drinks and headed back to the hotel. A few more drinks later, it was time to call it a night.

Sunday morning was a whirlwind of packing the car and cleaning the condo. Check out time was at 11 am and came way too early. We left just as the condo’s owner came to clean around 11:45. Right before we left we took a walk on the private fishing pier. We hated to have to leave, but we knew that we faced a long drive home. Before we left Charleston for good, we stopped back by Charleston Beer Exchange for some last minute purchases. There was a little waterside park at the end of the road and we sat on a bench there for a few minutes admiring the view and psyching ourselves up for the long drive ahead.

It was Sunday and the whole plan was to make it to Bruisin’ Ales before 6 pm when they closed. They are holding some beers for me. We cut it really close and arrived at Bruisin at 5:45 to find it …closed. Apparently they close at 4 on Sundays and not 6 like I thought. Oh well. We decided we could make one last stop for our little vacation and visit Wicked Weed right down the road.

We bought a couple of flights and as we drank them we once again ran into Luke, brewer and co-owner of Wicked Weed. He came over and sat down with us and talked for awhile. He had just gotten back into town from a trip to Colorado where he brewed a collaborative beer with New Belgium. I can’t wait to try it, and I’ll will make sure to help them spread the word when it is ready. Eventually we finished our samples and said our goodbyes. 2 hours later we were back in good old Knoxville, our vacation done. We had a really good time and I’ll never forget the experience. I loved Charleston and hope to return again soon. Check out the pictures below (click for slide show) and keep reading, there other things to mention.

I wanted to mention a few things before ending this post. Friday night New Belgium’s Clips of Faith event takes place at World’s Fair Park. I originally wasn’t planning on going, but my son bailed on our plans, so I might as well. See you there?

Also Saturday the Pints for Prevention beer festival takes place behind Central Flats and Taps. It’s $40, and if I wasn’t so burnt out on beer festival, I might consider going. No honestly, that’s not why. I plan on checking out an event in Sevierville that day and then taking my son to the last day of the fair. So I’ll be missing this one. Hopefully The Knox Beer Snobs or Blues and BBQ writes about it. Let me know how it went fellas.

Next weekend it’s looking like I’ll be heading to Maker’s Mark up in KY at the very least. Plan A is to hit a couple of places on the Bourbon trail and stay at a Bed and Breakfast and head back Sunday. If finances don’t allow then Plan B is to just drive there, take the tour and drive back. I am still hoping Plan A: Operation Bourboncation is a go, but probably won’t know until the week of.

The last weekend of the month is Kingsport Oktoberfest. This is Tennessee’s largest Oktoberfest and it pretty much takes over all of downtown Kingsport. Most of the festivities are free, but tickets are still for sale for the bier garden. That’s where you find me, pouring a few of my beers like Butternut Squash Ale, Ma Heffe Heffenweizen, Blackberry Bomber, and IPA and a new Gluten free IPA called the Celiactrix that I brewed for Katie. Trust me, this festival is worth the drive and there are still many cheap hotel rooms available near the event. don’t miss this.

Also remember the Knoxville Brewer’s Jam takes place on Saturday October 12th. Tickets are still on sale, but won’t be for long.

That’s all for now, I’ll post more when I have something to write about.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Live Blogging! #CraftBeer Run to Georgia. Visiting Burnt Hickory @BHB_brews, @BrickStorePub and More!

August 17, 2013

Hey y’all. It’s time for another edition of beer travel with Ratchet. Today’s trip is to Burnt Hickory Brewery in Kennesaw, GA. This trip came about when my good friends and fellow Knox Beer Crew members Terry and Aimee invited me along for the ride. Being that drinking craft beer and checking out new breweries are my favorite things, I couldn’t resist! It just happened to work out that I got a nice bonus at work the day before, so I can do some bottle shopping as well. Terry told me all about this brewery. They are a nano, brewing on a 2 barrel system. Apparently they only offer tours once a month on a Saturday from noon until 5pm. The tour cost $10 and you get a glass and five four ounce samples. You can buy more samples if you please. They really try to make this a big event with music, food and brewery exclusives every hour. I’m really looking forward to checking them out, trying their beers and learning more about the nano-brewery business.

I’ll be providing a play by play of the day’s trip. So far the plan is to spend the day at Burnt Hickory and possibly drive down to Decatur to check out the world famous Brick Store Pub and also do some bottle shopping. So check back periodically for updates and live vicariously through us!

11:20 am. We are in Kennesaw. Currently eating lunch at Big Pie in the Sky Pizzeria. This place was featured on the tv show, Man vs. Food. Starting the drinking day by splitting a bottle of Terrapin’s Golden Ale. This is Georgia exclusive, only available for purchase in the peach state.

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11:39 am: At Burnt Hickory. Just bought my glass and tickets. Getting ready for my first pour.

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Burnt Hickory from the parking lot. You’d never know it was there.

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My tasting glass and tickets

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12:30 pm: It’s rainy outside but it’s nice inside. A lot of good people & beers. Taking my time and on my second beer, 9353, a Belgian Peach IPA. Very good!

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Draft list at Burnt Hickory

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My friends Aimee and Terry

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A view inside

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Yes I get excited by grains

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The Millennium Falcon, Burnt Hickory’s 1 barrel Blichmann Brewhouse, essentially this is what I have without the fancy brew stand.

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Climate controlled fermentation room

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Only a brewery geek & aspiring nano-brewer like myself would say “Look at the ventalation sysytem, I better get a picture of that.”

1:05 pm: Just did the tour & tried a rare taste of Noggin Knocker Imperial Egg Nog Milk Stout. Wow!

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The Burnt Hickory’s personal beer cellar and stash. Talk about seeing beer geeks drool!

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Dark Lord anyone?

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These guys have a serious stash

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More of Burnt Hickory’s stash

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Stuff that they’ve bottled in the past

1:09 pm: Drinking a kick ass Mojito IPA.

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My Mojito IPA at the tasting room. Big lines at this point.

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They are using Corny kegs just like I do!

1:40 pm. I absolutely LOVE this brewery! I’m learning so much! Just got some amazing advice from head brewer, Will.

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2:30 pm: I tried to upload video but phone keeps dieing. Meeting great people, drinking amazing beer. Lines are long at this point & I’m a little bit buzzed. Here’s a pic of my new friends John, Bob & Mary:

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I met so many friendly people like my new friends, John, Bob and Mary.

Here’s another video of the tour:

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3:30 pm: Me Ratchet. Me drunk. Lucky me no drive. Me now talk like caveman. Me hungry. What me just drinked be on untappd.

6 pm: Ok, ok I sobered up & came to outta cave man mode. We left Burnt Hickory & headed to ATL. We just stopped at Greene’s liquor store where I bought some rarities. We are now heading to Brick Store Pub where our friends have a table for us.

What I picked up at Green's

What I picked up at Green’s

6:15 pm: At Brick Store. I just ordered Straffe Hendrick Quad.

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Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel is very good!

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Knoxville friends from Left to right: George, Sammi, Aimee, Terry and Ratchet.

7:37 pm: I had to take a break and eat something. Didn’t finish my delicious beer. We walked over to Twain’s Brew pub. I just ordered a flight, even though I don’t think I can drink it all. We are going to The Porter Beer Bar next.

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Twain’s

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Sign at Twain’s

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Twain’s house beer list

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I had a flight.

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9:45 pm: Walked around Little 5 Points. Bought clothes at Rag-O-Rama. Had one last beer at The Porter Bar. Drank WestBrook’s One Claw. We are now in the car heading back to Knoxville. I’d like to thank Terry and Aimee again for taking me on this trip. My phone wouldn’t cooperate on loading all the videos and pictures. I’ll try again soon.

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The door to the Porter Beer Bar

Beer list at Porter Beer Bar

Beer list at Porter Beer Bar

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Bar at Porter

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The sign outside where we were allowed to drink our beer on the sidewalk in Little 5 Points. There were cops standing everywhere and they just didn’t care. This is in major contrast to Knoxville.

Thanks for following along. Just a few more things I’d like to let y’all know about. This Thursday, August 22nd I’ll be infusing Flat 12 bierwork’s Cucumber Kolsch with lemons, cilantro and basil at Suttree’s starting at 6. This is going to be good, trust me. I hope y’all can make it out. Also this Saturday is the Knox Beer Crew tasting, taking place at Vic’s. More info on the calendar at KnoxBeerCrew.com

Until next time….
Cheers,
Ratchet